As a pre-professional ballet student, I left home at 14 to train at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. At 17 I moved even further away when I was accepted into the San Francisco Ballet School. For years I believed that I left dance because I just wasn't strong enough, but I see now that I was dealing with a major depression that could have been treated, and that I struggled to get out of for years to come.
For the last 10 years I have been writing about mental health issues in Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, and Dance Spirit Magazines. In the summer of 2017 I shared my own story, as well as my outrage in an article posted to the Dance Magazine website called "Why are we still so bad at addressing dancers' mental health." The article went viral and I was stunned by the response.
Following the success of the article my colleague Dr. Brian Goonan and I posted a survey on the dance magazine website - the results were staggering. 899 dancers responded and 80% of those dancers have experienced a mental health challenge in the last 5 years. Only 12% have a mental health professional available to them if they need it. Perhaps most concerning, only 10% of the dancers would definitely feel comfortable talking a teacher if they were struggling mentally.
It is time for dance to come out of the dark ages and normalize mental health support as an integral part of dance training. Minding the Gap is preparing to undertake a three-year longitudinal study to collect unprecedented data on the mental wellness of dancers. Once baseline data is collected we will spend the next three years implementing scale-able mental health interventions to discover the most effective ways to support dancers. This will inform the future of Minding the Gap and how we provide resources and support for dancers.
My clinical partners in this effort are Brian T. Goonan, PhD and Leigh Skvarla, PhD. We are honored to have partnerships with Point Park University and the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet.
At the end of 2018 I quit my job to dedicate myself to this effort fully. As any entrepreneur will tell you, the early days of a start-up are HARD! While the study itself will be grant funded (pending), Minding the Gap has important bills to pay as we grow - the website, legal and accounting fees, and basic infrastructure needs. I have come to the end of my ability to foot all these bills myself.
I am asking for support to get Minding the Gap to the next level. The study will provide the research to build a real solution to support dancers and to achieve our goal - to fundamentally change dance culture to address mental health with the same seriousness as physical health in dance culture. We can get to a place with a sustainable revenue model, but please consider investing to give this thing legs.
- Tina Rojas
- Carly Berube
- Jessica Jones
- Jessie Opalko
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